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Extended Audio Sample Chronic City: A Novel Audiobook, by Jonathan Lethem Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (4,750 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jonathan Lethem Narrator: Mark Deakins Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2009 ISBN: 9780307577269
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The bestselling and beloved author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude delivers a searing love letter to the city that has inspired his finest work. 

Chase Insteadman, former child television star, has a new role in life—permanent guest on the Upper East Side dinner party circuit, where he is consigned to talk about his astronaut fiancée, Janice Trumbull, who is trapped on a circling space station. A chance encounter collides Chase with Perkus Tooth, a wily pop culture guru with a vicious conspiratorial streak and the best marijuana in town. Despite their disparate backgrounds and trajectories Chase and Perkus discover they have a lot in common, including a cast of friends from all walks of life in Manhattan. 

Together and separately they attempt to define the indefinable, and enter into a quest for the most elusive of things: truth and authenticity in a city where everything has a price. 

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Quotes & Awards

  • "[Lethem is] a writer who resists pigeonholing....it's hard to remain unsusceptible to his euphoria Los Angeles Times
  • Astonishing....Knowing and exuberant, with beautiful drunken sentences that somehow manage to walk a straight line.....Turbocharged....Intricate and seamless....A dancing showgirl of a novel, yet beneath the gaudy makeup it's also the girl next door: a traditional bildungsroman with a strong moral compass...." New York Times Book Review
  • Chronic City is a feverish portrait of the anxiety and isolation of modern Manhattan, full of dark humor and dazzling writing....proves both funny and frightening. Entertainment Weekly
  • Exuberant literary revving.....Lethem's vision of New York can approach the Swiftian. It is impressively observant in its detail and scourging in its mocking satire. There are any number of wicked portraits....His comments on New York life are often achingly exact....So pungent and imaginative The Boston Globe
  • Ingenious and unsettling...Lethem pulls everything together in a stunning critique of our perceptions of reality and our preconceptions of the function of literature. San Francisco Chronicle
  • Exquisitely written...Funny and mystifying, eminently quotable, resolutely difficult, even heartbreaking, "Chronic City" demonstrates an imaginative breadth not quite of this world. Cleveland Plain Dealer


  • A fluid sense of reality pervades these pages, which explore high society, urban politics, avant-garde art, celebrity mania and the dangers of information overload in an age where context is devalued or ignored....the quality of Lethem's prose and the exuberance of his imagination are reasons enough to read it.....When it comes to style, Lethem has few equals. Miami Herald
  • The novel functions much like Manhattan used to – a mad scramble of connections made and, more often, missed…make(s) a reader ache for a city long gone. Esquire 
  • "Entertaining....a prosopographical investigation of New York City by way of a handful of strange, unclassifiable characters (and some remarkable writing)....splendidly observed Wall Street Journal
  • Brilliant....exquisite wit and dazzling intricacy of every single paragraph......roves he's one of the most elegant stylists in the country, and he's capable of spinning surreal scenes that are equal parts noir and comedy.... evocative and engaging....As a reflection on modern alienation and the chronic loneliness that afflicts us in our faux world, this is beautifully, often powerfully done. The Washington Post
  • A sprawling book about pop culture and outer space…realistic and fantastic, serious and funny, warm and clear eyed. One of the new generation's most ambitious writers, Lethem again offers a novel that deals with nothing less important than the difference between truth and lies. And some stories about good cheeseburgers. The Daily Beast 
  • A stellar, multi-layered novel. GQ 
  • Lethem has often sought to interweave the realistic and the fantastic; in Chronic City the result is nearly seamless. New York Magazine
  • One of America's finest novelists explores the disconnections among art, government, space travel and parallel realities, as his characters hunger for elusive meaning…… All truths and realities are open to interpretation, even negotiation, in this brilliantly rich novel….Lethem's most ambitious work to date. Kirkus Reviews, starred
  • Pow! Letham has done it again. When it comes to brainy adventures full of laughter and heart this master has few equals. What a joy from the first page to the last. Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook
  • I'm reminded of the well-rubbed Kafka line re: A book must be the axe to break the frozen sea within us. Lethem's book, with incredible fury, aspires to do little less. It's almost certainly his best novel. It's genuinely great. David Shields, author of The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead
  • Friction, charisma, unpleasantness, and threat are key to this tale of scintillating misfits.....dizzyingly brilliant urban enigma O Magazine
  • “Friction, charisma, unpleasantness, and threat are key to this tale of scintillating misfits…Dizzyingly brilliant urban enigma.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “[Lethem is] a writer who resists pigeonholing…It’s hard to remain unsusceptible to his euphoria.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “A stellar, multi-layered novel.”

    GQ

  • “A sprawling book about pop culture and outer space…realistic and fantastic, serious and funny, warm and clear eyed. One of the new generation’s most ambitious writers, Lethem again offers a novel that deals with nothing less important than the difference between truth and lies. And some stories about good cheeseburgers.”

    Daily Beast

  • “Brilliant…Exquisite wit and dazzling intricacy of every single paragraph…Proves he’s one of the most elegant stylists in the country, and he’s capable of spinning surreal scenes that are equal parts noir and comedy…Evocative and engaging…As a reflection on modern alienation and the chronic loneliness that afflicts us in our faux world, this is beautifully, often powerfully done.”

    Washington Post

  • “Entertaining…A prosopographical investigation of New York City by way of a handful of strange, unclassifiable characters (and some remarkable writing)…Splendidly observed.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “The novel functions much like Manhattan used to—a mad scramble of connections made and, more often, missed…make[s] a reader ache for a city long gone.”

    Esquire

  • “A fluid sense of reality pervades these pages, which explore high society, urban politics, avant-garde art, celebrity mania, and the dangers of information overload in an age where context is devalued or ignored…The quality of Lethem’s prose and the exuberance of his imagination are reasons enough to read it…When it comes to style, Lethem has few equals.”

    Miami Herald

  • “Exquisitely written…Funny and mystifying, eminently quotable, resolutely difficult, even heartbreaking, Chronic City demonstrates an imaginative breadth not quite of this world.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “Ingenious and unsettling…Lethem pulls everything together in a stunning critique of our perceptions of reality and our preconceptions of the function of literature.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Exuberant literary revving…Lethem’s vision of New York can approach the Swiftian. It is impressively observant in its detail and scourging in its mocking satire. There are any number of wicked portraits…His comments on New York life are often achingly exact…So pungent and imaginative.”

    Boston Globe

  • Chronic City is a feverish portrait of the anxiety and isolation of modern Manhattan, full of dark humor and dazzling writing…Proves both funny and frightening.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “One of America’s finest novelists explores the disconnections among art, government, space travel and parallel realities, as his characters hunger for elusive meaning…All truths and realities are open to interpretation, even negotiation, in this brilliantly rich novel…Lethem’s most ambitious work to date.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Astonishing…Knowing and exuberant, with beautiful drunken sentences that somehow manage to walk a straight line…Turbocharged…Intricate and seamless…A dancing showgirl of a novel, yet beneath the gaudy makeup it’s also the girl next door: a traditional bildungsroman with a strong moral compass.”

    New York Times Book Review

    • A 2009 New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year for Fiction
    • Selected for the November 2009 Indie Next List
    • A New York Times Bestseller

    Listener Opinions

    • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elizabeth Olson | 2/20/2014

      " Entertainingly trippy mind warp fiction, set in a sort-of real Manhattan, that uses its altered reality to shed light on and raise questions about modern cultural obsessions and assumptions. What's real? What isn't? What is of real value? How do you know? Scenes, characters and questions, questions, remain to rattle around my brain long after putting it down. "

    • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Matt Comito | 2/16/2014

      " Tom Wolfe territory - second disappointing assay in a row - say it aint so "

    • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Corinna | 2/13/2014

      " One of the strangest books I've read in a long time. That's in a good way, I think. "

    • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Orin | 2/2/2014

      " Remarkable novel. I'm almost ready to go back and start over (and I remember doing that for only one other novel, A Bend in the River) just to explore the complex storytelling, the intricate sentences, and everything in between. "

    • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Grant | 1/30/2014

      " Fantastic--so much to talk about on every page. Take: "Terms swarm up to tempt me in the course of this description: Greek Orthodox, Romanesque, flying buttress, etc. These guessing words I find junked in my brain in deranged juxtaposition, like files randomly stuffed into cabinets by a dispirited secretary with no notion of what, if anything, might ever be usefully retrieved. Often all language seems this way: a monstrous compendium of embedded histories I'm helpless to understand. I employ it in the way a dog drives a car, without grasping how the car came to exist or what makes a combustion engine possible. That is, of course, if dogs drove cars. They don't. Yet I go around forming sentences." "

    • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mindy | 1/29/2014

      " I had to google what the heck I had just read which means it was more cerebral than I had anticipated. I liked it but I was confused at the end. Nuff said. "

    • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 James | 1/20/2014

      " Excellent book. What worked was the examination of popular culture and if it does contain some hidden truth, or is this truth/meaning perpetually deferred in a Derridian shift. The ending felt weak to me, limiting the rating to four stars. Although the ending was consistent with the overall theme simulacrum. Some readers may put off by the Manhattan centered setting and characters. "

    • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrew | 1/17/2014

      " Great moments. I'm tiring of super-realism. "

    • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Hal | 1/14/2014

      " Ordinarily I'm a fan of Lethem, but this one was missing something. Perhaps it would have been better with a bit of editing. 20+ pages of people getting high and bidding on e-bay for vases is, on the one hand, a textured illustration of the vacuous existence of rich New Yorkers, while on the other hand, really freaking boring. Also, it's possible to write a great novel without any sympathetic characters, but it isn't easy, and Lethem misses the mark. The plot also seems to be building to something, but just peters out somewhere around the 400 page mark. "

    • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Grace | 1/9/2014

      " good bones. a little new york snarky- but who doesn't love a good 'some girls' reference? "

    • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Erik Marshall | 12/28/2013

      " This is one of the most insightful and, in some ways, prescient books I've read in years. "

    • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jack Goodstein | 12/16/2013

      " Reviewed for Blogcritics. "

    • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kris | 12/5/2013

      " I enjoyed it because I'm a Lethem fan but I don't know if I could recommend it to someone who isn't. "

    • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Seán | 9/20/2013

      " This doesn't rate as high my favorites, but I must admit that I love how Lethem is remaining defiantly idiosyncratic. Keep on, my man. "

    • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Amanda Clarke | 7/1/2013

      " Too pretentious for my taste. "

    • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mejix | 3/2/2013

      " It was ok. The plot was entertaining. I liked the characters and the alternate Manhattan. I don't think it was well resolved though. Lethem likes to describe an event and then interpret it for us. And it usually has a grandiose meaning. "

    • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leighana Thornton | 2/1/2013

      " I wanted to love this book, but I didn't, I'm sad to say. I loved the language, I loved the characters, but somehow it didn't come together for me. That being said, I enjoyed reading it, and I'm glad that I did, but it's not one of my favorite Lethem books. "

    • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ella | 11/23/2012

      " I finished this book totally confused and not necessarily in a good way. I found it dense without being illuminating or profound. Almost just one more treatise on what losers we are. That said, his writing style is delightful. "

    • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jared | 9/21/2012

      " This is such a fun and satisfying read. If you like caffeine and weed-fueled paranoid conspiracy theories about New York City, this book is definitely for you. "

    • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bill Mill | 8/9/2012

      " The problem with this book is that it's a 250-page book inside the body of a near-500-page book. Large swaths of the middle are unnecessary and slow, but the end pays off the beginning. Would be a 4-star book with some serious editing. "

    • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sherry schwabacher | 7/9/2012

      " Well, I tried. This was such an interesting premise, but halfway in I just couldn't keep wasting my precious reading time. I couldn't care about any of the characters. This is the second book by Lethem I've had to abandon. I think he is off my To-Read lest from now on. "

    • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Erik | 9/4/2011

      " As much as I like Lethem as an author, I had a hard time getting through this book. Not exactly sure why. Perhaps some of the characters or insights were a little too close to the bone. "

    • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Destiny | 6/25/2011

      " Ummm?!? Has anyone read this yet? Comments? "

    • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jamie | 5/14/2011

      " Least favorite Lethem. I don't want to be mean to one of my favorite authors, so I'm not going to elaborate. Others might like it, its just not my thing. "

    • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Beth | 5/9/2011

      " I had to force myself to finish this book...I still don't get it. "

    • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bill | 5/4/2011

      " Enjoyable, but I'm still waiting for Lethem to live up to the promise of "Motherless Brooklyn "

    • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mia | 5/4/2011

      " Considering how much I've loved so much of Lethem's other work, this one was pretty disappointing. I could tell what he was attempting, but it came across as pretentious stoned Seinfeld TV show meets Thomas Pynchon. "

    • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 James | 4/28/2011

      " A book so maddeningly ill-conceived as to make one reevaluate the previously cherished works of the author. If you wish to remember Fortress of Solitude fondly, avoid this one. "

    • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Zoe | 4/17/2011

      " I felt this book, which could be described as a novel that features Manhattan as its main character, was in the league of David Mitchell and Kazuo Ishiguro for its multi-layered, rich literary material. It was funny, sad, real, imaginary, and had it's own sci-fi twist. "

    • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeremy | 4/14/2011

      " Didn't like this one quite as much as his other newer magical realism type books - just a little too weird and the characters weren't as sympathetic to me. Still really good. "

    • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leighana | 4/5/2011

      " I wanted to love this book, but I didn't, I'm sad to say. I loved the language, I loved the characters, but somehow it didn't come together for me. That being said, I enjoyed reading it, and I'm glad that I did, but it's not one of my favorite Lethem books. "

    • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jim | 3/31/2011

      " Perkus is dead and I need Ice or I'm next! I've been on that space station too long or is it Amnesia Moon. What a fun read. "

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    About the Author
    Author Jonathan Lethem

    Jonathan Lethem is the author of a number of critically acclaimed novels, including National Book Critics Circle Award–winning Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude. Lethem’s stories and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and the New York Times, among others. He lives in New York City.

    About the Narrator

    Mark Deakins is an actor whose television appearances include Head Case, Star Trek: Voyager, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His film credits include Intervention, Star Trek: Insurrection, and The Devil’s Advocate. He recently wrote, directed, and produced the short film The Smith Interviews.